Launch of ‘A Century of Service’
A Century of Service: The City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital 1911-2011 by Eoin O’Brien was launched by Robert Ballagh in The Charles Institute at University College Dublin at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday 18th September 2011. Peter O’Flanagan, Chairman of the Board of The City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity. The full text of all speeches is included below.
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Peter O’Flanagan, Chairman of the Board of The City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of my colleagues on the Board of the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital Charity, I extend a Cead Mile Failte—a hundred thousand welcomes to each of you. We are here this evening for the launch of Eoin O Brien’s book, A Century of Service — The City of Dublin and Cancer Hospital 1911 to 2011.
And how appropriate that the first public function in this magnificent new building is the launch of the book that tells the story of our hospital.
And I believe it is appropriate that I tell you something of the man who founded the hospital and after whom this building is named:
Andrew Charles was born in 1879, the son of a successful businessman in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. He had three brothers, two of whom also became doctors and four sisters.
He received his medical education at the Royal College of Surgeons and The Carmichael School. He qualified at 21 in 1902 with a licentiate from The Royal College of Surgeons, having received a medal in anatomy and the prestigious Stoney Gold Medal.
He practised for a short time in Cookstown but moved back to Dublin and began practice in 1906 at 64 Harcourt Street. In 1907 he received his fellowship at The Royal College of Surgeons and was appointed Demonstrator in Anatomy and Surgery.
In 1915 Andrew Charles founded a radium fund to support research into the developing field of cancer therapy .This was the first initiative to put cancer research on a firm footing. In 1924 he founded The Journal of Cancer and, although short lived, it was the first journal devoted to the speciality of cancer.
In 1911 Andrew Charles, together with a Board of Management, founded The Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital for the specialized treatment of cancer and disease of the skin and kidneys.
It rented premises at No.3, Hume Street and purchased these the following year.
It is appropriate at this point to comment on the incredible foresight of the Board at that time. Right from its inception the Governing Board of The Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital foresaw huge growth for the services of the hospital and the need to acquire new premises. The Board sought and was granted a Royal Charter in 1916 that protected its assets and allowed it to engage in dermatology research and teaching. And you can understand why a copy of the Charter has pride of place in the entrance area and the first board of governors is commemorated by a plaque on the stairwell.
From the founding of the hospital in1911 to his death in 1933, at the age of 54, Andrew Charles was the Medical Superintendent of the hospital and in those 22 years he never missed a Board Meeting.
By every criterion he was the driving force and visionary that led to the creation and success of the hospital.
But other family members also contributed enormously, his sister Betty was the first Matron, his brother Dr. Frank was on the staff until his untimely death at the age of 33 in the influenza epidemic of 1918.
His son Havelock joined the hospital in 1934 and made a huge contribution, particularly as a dermatologist, until his death in 1980.
And how wonderful to have with us this evening the direct descendants of the Founder, Dr. Andrew Charles; His niece Dame Beulah Bewley, accompanied by her husband Thomas, his great grandsons Dr. Simon Futers and Michael Futers, his great, great grandson Alan George Futers, It adds greatly to the occasion that you are with us this evening.
We regret very much that Norma Futers, the granddaughter of Andrew Charles could not be with us—we ask Simon and Michael to pass on our wishes for her speedy recovery.
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, Here this evening we are also celebrating 100 years of Voluntary Endeavour that so many people in this room have contributed to. What a happy occasion therefore—-the launch of Eoin’s book and the celebration of that century of service that brings us here to-day.
And given that this is the first public occasion in the new Charles Institute I believe it is appropriate that I give a brief account of how we have arrived at this special day.
Many people here this evening will have been present at the A.G.M. of 2005 when the Chairman Matt O Brien informed the meeting that the adverse fire report earlier that year was the final straw that necessitated the closure of the hospital. Many of you will remember Eoin O Brien’s speech from the floor when he stated that, whilst this was devastating news, that rather than mark the deaths knell of the Charity, it could be a hugely significant beginning. Research worldwide into skin disease was minimal, a huge percentage of the population suffered horribly from it, the incidence of skin cancers was growing and there was not a single, full-time, Professor in the whole island to lead training or research.
The hospital was closed in 2006 and the service transferred to St. Vincent’s University Hospital—it is right that we acknowledge the tremendous effort by the dermatology consultants and staff in overseeing the safe transfer of the service.
We had the very difficult task in trying to ensure the very best outcome for our dedicated and loyal staff. We did our utmost to get the best possible result for everyone.
In 2006 the hospital was sold for nearly 32 million Euros and the Board then entered into discussions with all the relevant bodies including the HSE, The Irish Association of Dermatologists and The Irish Dermatology Nurses Association.
The Board then did a lot of soul searching and looked at every conceivable option. It decided that research into skin disease was the way to best represent the ethos that the founding fathers had established and which it was our duty to perpetuate.
In 2007 UCD, under the leadership of Professor Des Fitzgerald submitted a very thorough and ambitious proposal that had at its heart the building of a stand alone, state of the art Institute dedicated to research into skin disease. The Charity agreed to the proposal and to provide two thirds of the cost. The building would be called The Charles Institute and it is now a reality.
LET US REFLECT AND SAVOUR THE MOMENT—-THE FIRST PUBLIC SHOWING OF THE CHARLES.
There has been a very welcome outcome from the original building estimates agreed between the Charity and UCD. The saving of three million Euros from the original estimates has been ring-fenced as the initial research funding.
As I look around this evening I see past Board Chairmen, past Board Members, Members of the Ladies Guild, Life Governors staff who worked in the hospital.
And I do not believe there will ever again be an occasion where there will be as many people gathered together who had a part to play in creating that ethos that led to the decision that has resulted in the building of this, The Charles Institute.
I should mention three other important initiatives:
1. The researchers in the Charles will have to work closely with the consultants in St. Vincent’s University Hospital. It is imperative therefore that the clinical facility in the hospital is world class and we have now finalized an agreement with them that will double the size of the existing facility. The Charity is contributing the cost of refurbishing and equipping the dermatology service which will be named The Charles Centre and will open in early 2012. With the establishment of the Charles Institute here in U.C.D. and the Charles Centre in St. Vincent’s University Hospital the Charity will have achieved the first step in its translational vision of bringing the benefits of research from bench to bed.
2. Two years ago the Board asked Matt O Brien to chair a sub-committee that included Eoin O’Brien and Oonagh Manning to look at the need for a skin foundation. They have had extensive talks with the different patient groups, the IAD and the Irish Dermatology Nurses Association. The result of their intense work is the setting up of The Irish Skin Foundation. The Charity believes the potential of the Foundation to act as advocates for people who suffer from skin disease is so great we are funding the total costs for the initial years. The inaugural Board meeting has already taken place with Eoin as Chairman and Matt as secretary. Premises are practically secured and the post of C.E.O. has been advertised.
This is a further step in the translational vision of The Board, namely that of bringing science to the public.
3. The final initiative for the Charity was writing the history of the hospital “A Century of Service”. The Board saw the history of the hospital as merely the first chapter in what we anticipate will be a productive and exciting future. We believed, therefore, that the origins of this initiative in dermatology should be recorded for posterity. We, as the Board, are hugely grateful to Eoin for the time and commitment he has given to produce the book. His connections with the hospital over many years, his recognized ability as an author, his feeling for the ethos of the hospital, made him the only person who could have done justice to its rich history. And he has done us proud with “A CENTURY OF SERVICE”.
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.
Eoin O’Brien, Author of A Century of Service: The City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital 1911 – 2012
Thank you Peter and Des for all the nice things you have said about me. Peter for the Charity and Des for UCD have been the driving forces in the Charles Institute initiative. And Bobby – dear friend of many years – thank you for coming here this evening to launch A Century of Service.
This book is not really written by me – it is more a family album to which many members of the family chose to give me personal vignettes, documents, photographs and memorabilia that allowed me as the conductor of this family orchestra to bring together in what I hope is a harmonious rendering of times past with a stirring overture to the future. It has to be recorded also with sadness that some members of the family chose simply not to participate and a minority actually withheld material that would have been of great assistance to me. But such obligatory statements of fact should not detract from the wealth of material I was given for A Century of Service.
It is some twenty years since I last wrote on medical history and my decision to depart the subject was based on the belief that I had said what I had to say and that there was little to be gained by my pursuing the subject further. Why then I have asked myself repeatedly over the last year did I reverse this decision to write a history of a small hospital that would have little if any appeal outside of the small readership of those who had been associated with the Hospital? Perhaps, first and foremost I felt duty bound to write about an institution that had been so much a part of my life. I had not only worked in the Hospital, as had my mother and father before me, but much of my childhood had been spent there in one form or another. I may even have been conceived there. It was as Brian O’Doherty has so aptly put it “an act of filial piety”. But I think there is more, much more, to it than just that. Had the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital closed, been sold and the monies dispensed to charity in whatever way seemed appropriate I would certainly not have written this history. It owes its existence to the fact that I see the Hospital on Hume Street as being merely a developmental step in a greater future, a future that has seen the establishment of the Charles Institute on the campus of University College Dublin, the Charles Centre at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and the Irish Skin Foundation with the mission of bringing science to society. It is this example of achievement that motivated me to record what may be just the first of many chapters in a history of endeavour that had its origins in the voluntary hospital movement in Ireland that dates from the early eighteenth century. A Century of Service is not a literary work, nor is it a work of historiography; rather it is a statement of endeavour, an account of a struggle against the odds – a story illustrating that success is a matter of simply having the courage to dare to fail.
I am grateful to many people for their assistance in writing this history of the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital.
First and foremost I acknowledge with gratitude the support of colleagues on the Board of the Charity, and in particular the prescience of the Chairman, Peter O’Flanagan, who saw the importance of recording the history of the Hospital.
Without Matt O’Brien’s diligent research the history would be sadly deficient. Whereas I was in possession of most of the Annual Reports from 1939 onwards, I had no records whatever relating to the Hospital from its foundation in 1911 to the nineteen thirties. Matt filled this void for me by assiduously researching the archives of the Irish Times where he was able to obtain not only most of the Annual Reports for the period but also the weekly reports of the monthly meetings of the Board together with other items that had attracted interest.
Dame Beulah Bewley, Thomas Bewley and Norma Futers, relatives of Andrew Charles, provided personal details about the Charles family, which were invaluable and their contributions are included in the appendices.
Present and past members of the Board, and relatives of deceased members provided material and personal memoirs for which I am most grateful – Jim Lovegrove, Brian Crawford, Gerard Lawler, Feargal Quinn and Karen Erwin and other members of the Board provided me with whatever material they could find – my thanks to Tom Brennan, Peter Johnson, Mairin McDonagh Byrne, and Oonagh Manning.
Relatives of deceased members of the Hospital staff provided personal memoirs, obituary notices and photographs, which are presented in the appendices. I am particularly grateful to Denis O’Sullivan and his sister Helen Stapleton for details on their aunt Joan O’Sullivan, who was such an influential figure in the history of the Hospital; to David Mooney, Michael Brady, John Gilmartin, Denise Curtin, Hugh and Berna O’Brien and Simon Walker for documents, photographs and personal tributes to their parents.
Carmel McKenna, former Senior Administrative Officer, gave me useful documents for which I am grateful.
Mary O’Doherty, Assistant Librarian, Special Collections and Archives, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, provided me with important documentation relating to Andrew Charles, and, as always, valuable advice and with Professor Frank Powell, who contributed an important essay on Dr. William Wallace, she allowed us to select form the wonderful collection of paintings that were executed in Dublin’s first hospital for treatment of skin diseases, and which you can view here.
A book has not only to be written – it has also to be published and in the interest of expediency and cost containment I undertook to publish A Century of Service – a task that left me dependent on the skill and expertise of people with more knowledge than me in this very specialised field of endeavour.
Firstly, Ted and Ursula O’Brien, not only advised on the design of the book but also meticulously proofread the text and led me through the publication process as they have done with previous books I have written.
David and Edwin Davison applied their photographic skill to ensure that even the oldest photographs were reproduced to as a high a standard as was possible.
I owe my daughter Aphria thanks for scanning all the annual reports and compiling the index.
Robert South and Don Hawthorn from Nicholson & Bass, who printed the book, had extraordinary patience in allowing me to set the book as it was written, a rather unusual approach, but the only one that was possible given the constraints of time and material.
Seamus Kennedy read and reread the book and made many useful suggestions.
The influence of the professional team from Martello Media was most helpful to the illustrative aspects of the book. You will see the tasteful sense of times past that the Martello group, under the coordinative eye of Clare Kavanagh, have brought to the Charles Institute with the display of the Charter to the right of the door, the engraved acknowledgement to the founding fathers at the foot of the stairwell, the assembly of brass plagues from the old hospital outside the Board Room and the remarkable paintings from the Wallace collection in the Royal College of Surgeons as you ascend the stairs – again these reproductions are testament to the skill of David Davison.
In this regard it is, I believe, worth digressing for a moment to acknowledge that the Board of the Charity in collaboration with the University, has espoused the vision of science moving hand-in-hand with art – that in the pursuit of science the researchers of the future should also be allowed to relax in an ambience in which art can encourage relaxation and who knows inspire. This aspiration is one that is encouraged, I know, by the President of UCD, Hugh Brady, who I am glad to welcome here this evening. So we have work by Eamon Ceannt, Bernadette Madden, Harry Clarke and Brian O’Doherty, whose rope drawing fills the void at the helm of this wonderful building – details of “The Arrow of Curiosity, the Curve of Conciliation, and the Line of Inquiry” are available in brochures on the chairs and tables.
I would also like to acknowledge the important role of Eliz Dunne – factotum of factotums – in facilitating all these installations and for helping in so many other ways and to the team who met with me on so many occasions to plan this evening and tomorrow’s opening of the Charles Institute – Alex Boyd, Mary Staunton and Kate Ryan.
I would like to thank Tona for her patience – many promised commitments were abandoned for A Century of Service – forgive me Tona – once again! But most importantly Tona’s advice and sensitivity in designing the special edition, which has been so beautifully bound by Antiquarian Bookcrafts, was as with previous special editions with which we have been involved, invaluable.
And lastly, this unusual book continues to defy conventional procedure. In sponsoring the publication of A Century of Service the Board of the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Charity decided, quite rightly in my view, that the book should not be a commercial production. The book will not be available, therefore, in shops – it is simply not for sale. However, thanks to John Howard, Librarian to the James Joyce Library in UCD, it will be available for the future from the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive at the James Joyce Library in University College Dublin. However, the Charity also decided that 500 copies should be made available for such use as might be appropriate from time to time. It went on to deem the first such occasion to be this evening and in acknowledgement to all of you who have been kind enough to support this event with your presence here this evening, you can collect a signed copy of the book from Helen and Seamus at the desk in the foyer as you depart this evening.
For a Hospital that thrived on family dynasties, both medical and lay, there is an auspicious omen for the Charles Institute in that I espy in our midst the great-grandson of one of the early doctors in the Hospital – the youngest member of this gathering – Hayden O’Brien.
So Ladies and gentlemen in closing I see A Century of Service as a tribute to those of the past who sacrificed so much for a better future for the many; it is also a tribute to those of the present who had a vision for the future.